Recommended Reading

About mid-way through March of this year, I decided I would like to try reading one of those daily Bibles. I had been dabbling in reading some of the Old Testament, which I had not done for a while, and I figured what better way than to read through it in manageable, daily selections?

NLT One Year Chronological Study BibleI had used one of these Bible-reading plans a couple decades back and I remembered enjoying the experience. One of the really interesting parts was that the text was organized in chronological order. This takes you through the Bible as it was actually happening in time, rather than the order of the books in the Bible. It ends up being similar, but as you read through chronologically, with sections from different books being read side by side, the story unfolds a bit more naturally, and it’s also interesting to read the multiple accounts in direct succession, seeing how the same stories are told sometimes exactly the same, sometimes slightly differently; details added or omitted. Very interesting.

This time, I chose The One Year Chronological Study Bible (New Living Translation) as I enjoy that translation, and decided to try something different. I have not been disappointed. Perhaps my favorite part is that this is a “study Bible”. There are many helpful study tools, including addition of historical context in places, and I’ve found the notes to be the most interesting. There are copious notes on words and phrases detailing other possible translations, where each came from (Hebrew, Greek, which manuscripts, etc.), and sometimes, “the meaning of the Hebrew here is unknown”. Sometimes, you just don’t know!

While all of this is very interesting, this free advertising for Tyndale House Publishers is not my reason for writing today. 🙂

The end of September is where the reader reaches the New Testament. Jesus. The fullness of God’s story. It amazes me how much of the history of God’s people (Israel) points the way to Jesus. But when you read through all of it in order, in a way traveling through the whole story with them, you see hints of God’s whole plan throughout time.

Everything points to Jesus.

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. 1


Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
   for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
   He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.[f]
   So he is first in everything.
   For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
   and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
     He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. 2

When Jesus arrives in the story, the tone of everything changes. God is here. And he’s different than we imagined. But exactly as he said he would be, and in some ways, exactly as we knew him to be.

You know how when you read a good book, you’re drawn into the story, almost into the world of that story, and you are eager for more … to see where it’s going, where it will end. That’s how I’ve felt during this experience, and I am eager to read again Jesus’ words and his actions and to see in them the fulfillment of everything in the grand scope of God’s Story.

His story.

Perhaps you think of reading the Bible as drab, dull, boring, a chore, monotonous—especially if you’ve read it many times, “I’ve already read this many times“. First, I would counter that and say that, at least in the Old Testament, you can not really say that it is boring. The Bible is definitely not for children. The stories of who we are… I’d say are rated at least PG-13!

Not to say that long genealogies and lists of numbers of people by family is not in there… it is. But if you can allow for those sections, it’s hard to call the Bible as a whole, “boring”.

In the journey through this incredible book of books3 you’ll hear God’s plan for and invitation to you. The Bible really is about God’s desire to be with his people, culminating in Jesus, who will ultimately make all things new (see Romans 8).

So grab a copy, and read along—maybe plan to start next January 1st.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do…

  1. Hebrews 1:1-3a, NLT
  2. Colossians 1:15-20, NLT
  3. Josh McDowell has much to say on the historical reliability of the Bible text. It’s really fascinating. There are many books, and I found this video. I encourage you to look into it more when you have time.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus+Nothing=EverythingA good friend of ours read a book a while ago and thought that I might enjoy it, too. She was right.

What I most enjoyed about this book was it’s emphatic emphasis (is that a thing?) on the singular fullness of Jesus. (Which, I’m sure you already gleaned from the title.)

The concept is, nothing we can add to who Jesus is, and what he has already done, will in anyway add to or enhance our lives, our existence. And, in a slight bending of the commutative property of addition, he asserts that removing Jesus from everything, leaves us with nothing. (That was for my kids, who do not hold much love for math…)

Here’s a quote from early in the book:

God seemed bigger to me than ever, when I’d never been so small.

When you actually feel like you have nothing, Jesus becomes more to you than you ever could have hoped or imagined.

Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

The gospel became for me more than a theological passion more than a cognitive catch-phrase it became my functional lifeline.

Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that:

Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose.
Because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

At a very difficult time in his life, the emphasis of the author’s real, tangible life became completely focused on who Jesus is, what Jesus does for him… and the reality of its completion and accessibility to him. And to us.

The gospel erases us, in [a] sense, which is why we avoid it. But that erasing of self is the key to our freedom.

The gospel doesn’t take you deeper into yourself; the gospel takes you away from yourself. That’s why Paul reminds the Colossians (and us), “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:3) The gospel frees us to realize that, while we matter, we’re not the point.

Jesus is the point.

We who call ourselves Christians certainly already realize this. But it is not often realized in our lives. The days we live. The hopes we have, challenges we face, thoughts we think. We do not live in the fullness and reality of the gospel: that God so loved [all of us] that he took on skin and defeated sin and death, that we might know eternal life. In Him. And then the “Christian life” flows from knowing, accepting, and living that.

At one point the author proclaims a “hatred” for ‘accountability groups’ because of their incorrect focus. Christianity tends to focus on behavior, and inward attempts to change. But the change only comes from Jesus’ work in us. Once on the cross, and ongoing as we walk with him.

He says this about how we can encourage one another as we live our lives in step with the Spirit:

So, instead of trying to fix on another, why don’t we “stir one another up to love and good deeds” by daily reminding one another, in humble love, of the riches we already possess in Christ? ….

Our greatest need is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves, because the gospel is not our work for Jesus, but Jesus’s work for us.

The truth that this book presents is that we have everything we need in Jesus. Period. The end. Nothing more is needed. Anything else just gets in the way, and takes our focus off of the Life source: Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2 comes to mind.)

Today, if you are weary, or burdened, or feel as though you are missing something… please look to Jesus. He is already there, with you, waiting for you to cease your struggle and simply follow him. Trust him.

If those are just words, please ask Him to show you how to experience them. There is no life without him. Everything minus Jesus is nothing.

But, as Tchividjian says (I just wanted to get his name in here! It’s pretty crazy!):

Jesus, plus nothing, equals everything.

And in that, we are free.

What Makes A Good Story?

Who doesn’t love a good story? We are drawn into some tales, so much that we feel we can’t turn away. We can’t put the book down. We are mesmerized.

What is it that grips us so? Is it a likable character, or characters, who draw us into their own stories—almost as if they were our own—or does a compelling story grab our attention, whether or not we find depth and humanness in the characters who play it out?

Lots of Books

I really don’t know. I feel could be swayed either way.

My kids love a good story. We will often read “chapter books” together just before bedtime. We’ve read some great stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Gentle Ben, and we just finished off The Jungle Book (the real stories by Rudyard Kipling, not the Disney-fied versions) and The Black Stallion. Next up is C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia!

But they pretty quickly recognize a story that is missing “something”. (We would not recommend Irma and Jerry, by George Selden, though we loved The Cricket In Times Square!) The most interesting part was that we began Kipling’s Jungle Books after giving up on Irma & Jerry midway through, and within mere paragraphs all four listeners were hooked (as was the Reader!) by the tale Kipling spun.

On the other side of the coin, the oldest two boys and I tried—and tried, and tried—to read Dickens’ Great Expectations together, until after months of trying, we finally put it down and have never returned. While the story has some interesting, likable characters, we would say the plot was not only not compelling, it was perhaps entirely nonexistent?

What is it that is either present or lacking in a story that compels or repels the reader?

I am a reader. I am also a writer.

I am currently enjoying the process of writing out a story that has been very well-received. The plot is not very original, I don’t think, though there are plenty of cliff-hangers and interesting adventures. The strength of this story does seem to be its cast of likable characters. The reader (and even the writer!) want to know what happens to these characters. We are rooting for the “good guys” and against the “bad guys”.

The story that I am writing was originally told over a series of nights at bedtime. It was perhaps a couple weeks. Maybe slightly more. The kids love the stories that I tell, and they especially love the ones that I make up with them as the main characters!

We need to identify with the story. That’s important.

Does that mean the characters are the most important part of a “good” story? Or can a strong, interesting story overcome less interesting individuals who are playing it out?

I’d really love to hear from you, Dear Reader. What do you prefer? What prevents you from putting down your book? When real life demands you pull yourself away, do the characters, or their story remain in your thoughts. Do you find that you miss them, or wonder what will happen to them?

Or is it both?

These are the questions that I currently ponder as I enjoy the characters and stories of books read and written.

Now, I must return to my book… 🙂

The Church Book: Revisited

htc-smallI came across a copy of my “Church book”, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church!, just today, and on a whim I picked it up and flipped through it. For some reason, the epilogue, titled “Concluding Remarks”, caught my eye this time.

If you think the book is anti-church, these words should dispel that notion. The words are the written expression of many weeks, months, and years of deep, soul-searching, truth-seeking efforts for the church, the Bride of Christ.

Happening across these words again today was interesting, coupled with a conversation we had this past week with an old friend. The subject of “the church” was central to a portion of our discussion. We both spent much time crafting emotional, spirit-filled, Jesus-centered programs. Everything was meant to point the hearer/seer to Jesus. And it was wonderful. We commented that we definitely miss those moments. And still, we also recall the not-just-physical exhaustion of energy possibly slightly misdirected: building up an organization and event, rather than one another.

If you haven’t purchased (or downloaded for free) and read a copy of this book yet, I wonder if what I wrote at the end of the book might encourage you to do so? I had forgotten about this part, but I think eight years later, this is all still true. (Even while some of the other things I’ve read might have been slightly modified by the passage of time.)

Here, today, is the short epilogue, in its entirety.

As I finished putting this book together, I couldn’t help but think that I had missed something. I tried to go back over each chapter in my head, wondering if I had said all that I hoped to communicate through a few thousand feeble words. I want so much to convey the astounding freedom that we have in the quite undeserved love of our Father. I want to communicate that we as the church could be so much more! I don’t want to attack, or belittle the things that so many brothers and sisters cherish (as did I in the not too distant past). I only want to offer what I believe we Christians already know and teach, but perhaps are just not living out.

A phrase from Scripture comes to mind quite often when I ponder the current forms of the Church. “A form of godliness, but denying its power.” To me it seems that could define the church, and the lives of many believers today. We have created a facade that would pretend to offer us life with Jesus, when in fact it is only a set of ethics to which we must adhere. It’s only a meeting to attend. A job to be done.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more. It’s here, now. Jesus has made it possible for us to know him and the Father by his Holy Spirit right inside us. He is always with us. Through good, and bad. This is the nature of the church. In reality, it’s not something we have created to propagate truths passed down through generations. We have turned it into that. But the church is the living, breathing, body and bride of Christ. It’s much more real than we have allowed it to be.

I don’t know if the words on these pages have stirred you or not. If they have, it was not the words that stirred. It was your Father. He loves you, just like he loves me. He has communicated that to me through many means, and I am hopeful that you heard his voice through this book. It is not my intention to tear down anything with this book, only to liberate and help open our eyes to the greatness of what we have, and perhaps what we’re missing.

Live today in the freedom of God’s love and grace. Know he loves you, and longs to be with you. His love is perfect, and compels us to love as we’ve been loved. May you know the greatness of living life as the church with others similarly loved.

Grace and Peace to you, The Church.
Greg Campbell

There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Clearance Sale Event – “Church Book” for $4.99!

UPDATE: This sale has ended, but if you’d like to purchase the book, you can find it at

Yesterday’s post, along with the several conversations about the church which I referenced having been party to in the recent past, have me thinking about the book I published on this subject. It you’ll allow me a very quick “commercial” post, I’d like to tell you just a little bit about it, including the currently drastically lowered price. (Who doesn’t like discounts!?)

Many years ago now, our musical travels took us to many different “versions” of churches. There were Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Worldwide Church of God, Pentecostal churches (of many varieties), Baptist churches, Catholic churches… pretty much every kind out there!

Along this journey, God was stirring something in our hearts.

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookOf course the differences were easy enough to notice. What struck me was the importance of the similarities.

Where one Baptist loved Jesus with all she was, another Presbyterian’s soul reverberated those same sentiments at the deepest core of his being. Whether demonstratively emotive in worship, or suit-and-tie reverent, there were people in each of these places—not all of the people anywhere, but there were some people in all of the places—whose lives were changed and forever united with the Jesus.

There’s only one. And it’s his church.

It began to become abundantly clear to me (many thoughts I’d had for years leading up to this being confirmed) that the church is much greater than a name on a sign, or an hour one weekend, or the person whom the crowds come to hear preach or sing.

There’s nothing wrong with belonging to a community with another name (any name other than simply, “the church”) but First Baptist Church of Your Town, USA is not “the church”. She is much bigger than that. Much more amazing than a building, its staff, or its programs, or anything under its lesser banner.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts… please dig through the archvies here. So much. (Much more since I published the book, actually.)

But I’d like to invite you to purchase this book.

The one at the top of the post. If what I’m saying here resonates with you, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading through what was essentially a journal of my own journey through the process of understanding a greater, larger, and simpler reality of who the church is.

We recently found several boxes of the book that I didn’t realize we still have here in our home, so I want to get them out to people—to you!

For $4.99 plus shipping (varies by quantity) you can purchase this book to enjoy yourself, pass along to someone else who has a hunger for the simpler church, and at the same time, help buy some food for the Campbell family! It’s a win-win, for sure!

Thanks for taking time to read this, and please share this with whomever you think might be interested.

Another great resource is The God Journey podcast, hosted by Wayne Jacobsen, or also his main website, Lifestream Ministries. Wayne articulates so well his thoughts about a life with Father without the burdens of religious obligations.

Hope you can help us clear out this inventory, and enjoy the greatness of Jesus’ Church at the same time.


One last thing… here’s the back cover of the book. Who doesn’t love more information?! Click for the full-size version.


[ThisDay] Caught In A Snowstorm!

It is a beautiful, snowy day as I write this. Large, puffy snowflakes drift quietly to the ground, piling higher and higher—much to the Campbell children’s delight! Apparently this time of year is a snowy time of year! Two separate posts on January 23rds over the past decade have been about notable amounts of snow. Below is the story some unexpected fun while attempting a walk to the library on one of these snowy occasions. (If you’d prefer a topic on “going to church”, see the links at the bottom!) Enjoy!


Caught In A Snowstorm!

January 23rd, 2008

Last night I took our four kids up to the library to return some books, and to pick up a few new ones. The library is only half-way around the block, so we bundled up for a nice winter walk. It was even lightly snowing, so it was more fun than usual!

We even sang a song on the way there:

“Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow
Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow!”

It was perfect, and the kids did pretty well in the library. We got the books we wanted, and some stamps from the nice librarian. We bundled back up and headed out the door.

What we discovered was astonishing.

Swirling, blowing, blinding SNOW! Where did this come from?!? I just laughed! It was like a joke! What happened to our light flurries??? Well, we had no other way home, so I made sure faces were as covered as they could be and we set out into the storm.

And this was a storm! The wind was a constant 10-15 mph I’d guess, with stronger gusts. And the snow was collecting on the ground – and on us! – at an alarming rate. The worst part was, a third of our trip was heading west, directly into the wind! At one point during that stretch I turned around and pulled Julia in the stroller backwards (which helped a lot I think) and saw poor little Kirstie just closing her eyes and leaning into the wind as she pressed ahead into the blizzard!

It was crazy!!

Once we were able to turn south, and find a bit of shelter behind a giant brick church building, it got a little better. We laughed all the way home through the still rapidly falling snow.

Red cheeks, faces, and other exposed skin greeted Mom when we got home. Mom actually met us in the driveway, as she had seen the fierce winter storm and was coming to get us. But we managed to brave the elements and make it back home safely.

I told the kids as we were fighting the storm that we’d have hot cocoa and hot baths when we got home! And we’d also read a couple of the library books we just worked so hard to get.

And we did. 🙂


  1. This post was also very interesting, and discussion-worthy, if you’ve the time. It refers to a podcast posted in late 2012, or early 2013, regarding the trend toward not attending weekend worship gatherings by many who would definitely align themselves with Jesus. So, if that’s more your cup of tea…


The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a ToastThere is a definite cyclical rhythm to life. At least, there is in mine.

I am a creator. I enjoy creating things. I work with words, images, colors and designs, even code and systems. I also create with food, and a few other physical mediums. And I love to create with imagination. (Bedtimes with my kids are usually quite entertaining!)

And I love to create here. Words flesh out thoughts, which often interact with each other creating further thoughts, which beget further words about thoughts. It’s a rewarding and interesting cycle all to itself.

Then there is the longer part of the cycle. This part occurs at a slower pace, gradually, over longer cycles; months, even years.

As a creative sort, I often find that one season will be full of creating, whilst another will seem devoid of new work—but that is because I am on the other side of that cycle: intake.

I’ve written about it here before. (Numerous times besides that post, I’m sure.)

And today’s post will highlight the same.

I actually finished up yesterday a bunch of books I’ve been reading over the past weeks and months. With a serious increase in daily output here since June of this current calendar year, I’ve been in output mode, churning out words more than taking in.

But the intake has not ceased. (See here.) And in fact, I am detecting that it’s now on the increase.

I’ve been feeling what could almost be described as a need for more reading time, again. My library account has been active. I’ve purchased a book or two. (Gotta love library book sales! Am I right??) And there are plenty of free options (public domain, etc.) via electronic book distributors.

Have a look at this list of books on my “currently reading” list (available here)

currently reading

Yes. I am currently, whenever I sit down to read, cracking open each of those books at whatever point I am into them. Really!

(Yes. You are also correct that… I’m a bit whacko.)

We’ve also been enjoying reading chunks of the Bible together as a family. We’re slowly working through Acts together, and last week we took an evening to read through the book of Philippians in one sitting. (Highly recommend you giving that a try, too. Such an encouraging text!)

It’s good to enjoy each cycle. To intake when that is needed, and churn out when in the output cycle.

Output may slow here a bit in this cycle, but the rhythm will flow back to output soon enough.

Last thing for today: the word rhythms was used so beautifully in Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 11:28-30. Enjoy, and remember to keep in rhythm with your (our) father.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Thankful [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

You’ll probably notice, reading through these Memory Lane posts, that my kids are a very important part of my life. I love being a Dad, despite the challenges, hard moments, hard weeks. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s pretty amazing how much I learn from the kids (seems like it would be vice versa, no?)

This story was of another hard day that became so beautiful, just by being grateful.


July 12th, 2011

There are days that it’s incredibly hard to see the good side. Where you’re so completely overwhelmed by the crushing weight of sadness, or failure, or just plain pain that you can’t see a way out of and seems it will never end.

For whatever reason, we’ve had more than our share of those around here lately.

But last night as I was putting the four youngest kids in bed, for some reason I decided to start (quite randomly) naming things that I was thankful for. “Thank you for Mom… and for (insert sibling name here)…” was how I began. Then I began just literally saying any word that came to mind. Some things I saw around their room, or then any related item or word. It quickly exploded into a fun game of who can think of the most random thing to be thankful for!

And the neat thing was, it worked.

The kids were not that excited to go to bed last night, but that little exercise lightened their hearts, and perhaps enlightened mine.

I found it was easy to rattle off all sorts of “good” things that we can be thankful for. Stars, trees, the sun, the moon, Grandmas & Grandpas, other friends we love, books, paper, paint, carpet, air conditioning, and so on. So I began intentionally thinking of “bad” things. (Or at least, weird things to be thankful for.)

“Thank you for toilets. For bottoms. For toilet paper.” Emma (our three-year old) picked right up on that, “Thank you for pee pee… AND poo poo!” And then I actually made myself say, “Thank you for HOT days.” (Reasoning in my mind that, though I loathe and detest the heat, I do love a good, juicy tomato … and they rather enjoy hot days.)

This seemed to work for all of the kiddos from the youngest (just about 2) who would grunt his approval with a little, “mmm hmm” after every word or phrase I’d say, to the room full of his three sisters all spitting out random words as fast as they were able to fit them in. It really was incredible!

One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampIt made me think of a book that Jen asked me to read, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Jen reads her blog, and so decided to purchase her book, and was challenged (in a good way) to try to change her perspective on life, as Ann has tried to do. It’s kind of a “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” idea, but a bit different. Her challenge was just to write down 1,000 things that you are thankful for. A few each day.

I think we may have hit about 400 last night alone! 🙂

There are so many things that we can be thankful for. It really just depends on your perspective. If you can come at life looking for goodness, you’ll often (usually) find it. If you’re expecting bad, you’ll usually end up there.

So maybe try it tonight. Putting kids to bed… after they are in bed… on your way home from work… just let you brain bounce from one thing to the next and speak it out, “Thank you for _____.” Not just things that God directly gave us, necessarily, but think about the things that are part of our everyday lives, and how they help us. We really do take much of life “for granted”, as they say. Doing so lifted my spirits last night, and four other tiny spirits.

Perhaps it can lift yours, tonight, too.

Living In Perfect Harmony [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookAs I mentioned here last week, I published a book on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”.

As I was recently revisiting this book, I came across a chapter or two that I wanted to share again.

And so that is what I’m doing again here today!

Today’s post is particularly interesting in light of two previous posts this week, Our Experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant and The Need to Be Right (Can Be So Wrong!).

This is the official book version—the chapter from the book. As such, it’s been edited, partially re-written, and should be a tad more complete than the original posting on the blog in 2005.

If you’d like to get the whole book, please click the Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and you can purchase a copy through Amazon. Thanks!

(Want to read the back cover?)

And now, “Living In Perfect Harmony”

Living In Perfect Harmony

Last night I had a conversation with a friend about some of the choices we have made recently in how we live out our relationship with Jesus. Our close friends know how we have struggled recently with the current (and long-standing) set up of the “church”. How it frustrates us that we have tied our weekly programmed gatherings into the essence of who we are as the church, and things of that nature. This friend disagrees with our conclusions, and just wanted to ask me about some scriptures, in a slightly confrontational way. (Not bad confrontation. No malice was evident, only concern for a friend.)

Well, we went around a few times on a few scriptures, and ideas and practices that some would consider essential, others might not. We definitely had differing conclusions on similar scriptures. Again, we did not throw punches, but there did not appear to be any reconciling of our intellectual differences.

And to my friend, they seemed important. Very important.

So I tried to make a break in the conversation and get us out of the loop of arguing our different vantage points on truth, and try to come to some agreement. Even an agreement to disagree. We agreed to continue the discussion at a later date. That was at least a good step I think.

I still believe that if we argue “truth”, it will only cause relational friction. I have a few friends who are at least skeptics, and on many days they are more like atheists who need to speak their mind to God. (Which is at least a little ironic.) But what I have noticed is that when viewpoints are in such stark opposition, the arguing is mostly just wasting time. No opinion will be swayed by such banter. No “truth” will be settled by an argument. I really believe that nothing can be gained in such a confrontation.

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong, the Lord's power will help them do as they should.(Note: That is not to say there is no place for confrontation. If there is a person whom you love who is clearly doing something that will harm them, there is a place for direct and unpleasant confrontation. It most likely will not resolve the issue at that moment, but can certainly lead to better choices down the road. If, as in everything, it is done “in love”. Real love. Not just, “I say this in love” love.)

It has become obvious to me that the only way the give and take can happen in relationships is when differences are 1) accepted and 2) discussed when not in conflict. If there is any hint of “I’m right, you’re wrong” then no relational progress will be made. And again, the emphasis should be on relational progress and not on intellectual, factual “truth” progress. In my opinion.

So after that conversation, I just realized how incredibly different we were. (At least, in the specific area of life we were discussing.) And actually, how badly I had responded. He brought a few things into the conversation that I personally think are silly, void of meaning practices, and, unfortunately, I laughed as he brought them up. I was only thinking of me at that point (I was slightly on the defensive, I suppose, too) and I reacted as though he were not a person capable of being hurt. I hope he was not, but I realized after he left (very much to my chagrin) that I had reacted very unlovingly to some things that he holds to be very important.

As I thought about it more—both my reaction and the issues he raised—I recalled a chapter in the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome about the very thing we were discussing. And, again, my reactions in that conversation.

I read it today, and I was blown away by the applicable truths I found. I need to quote large chunks of scripture below. Please do read it all, and I will add my comments as we go.

Romans 14:1-4
Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Oh wow. I have read this before, and in Bible college, it was a good source of humor to say that, “Vegetarians have weak faith!” That’s obviously not the point, and the comment was made in jest, but funny how even in jest we were criticizing, as Paul is warning us not to do.

Two things. One, don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. And two, to whom do we belong?.

First, as I mentioned to my friend, I really don’t think arguments over what is right or wrong will really go anywhere. God has given us much more freedom than the institution of the church is able to allow for. An institution, by nature, must have some set of guidelines or principals to adhere to that separate it from any other organization, and society at large. Otherwise, it would have no reason to exist. So there is a bit of conformity necessary for its very existence. But that is not so of Jesus’ body. We do not conform to the pattern of this world, but we are transformed by him.

Therein lies the other, deeper truth.

He does it. It’s his body. His church. He knows his servants, and he will lead them. This theme is present through this entire section of Paul’s letter. Who are we to question the practices or beliefs of another brother or sister (that are not specifically against the revealed will of God for all of us) in any matter? Paul says they (we) are “God’s servants.” The owner is not the person in question. Nor can they, nor should they be controlled by other servants. The Owner is Jesus Christ.

Listen to this powerful line again:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Wow. What if we really lived that way? What if we really trusted God to take care of his own people? They are not responsible to you, or me, or any group of elders, pastors, apostles, or anyone else who cares to wield the authority of a title over them. They are personally responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

I say this with such emphasis because I think this piece is so lacking from our corporate life together. Even our individual lives with God. We really don’t believe he’ll do it. We know he can, but in order to be responsible, and keep things going in a good direction, we have to make things happen. We can’t trust God to speak truth into someone’s life. We need to do it. And when the task grows too large, we arrange any sort of structure—rigid or not—to implement that “back-up” plan.

In short, we don’t allow room for Holy Spirit to convict and transform people, we feel like we need to do that. Because he won’t.

Well who do we think we are?

Amazing stuff. Please read on.

Rom 14:5-9
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died.

Arguing from the same line of thinking, Paul partially turns his focus from food to a subject that hits much closer to home currently. He says that some Christians have a special day for worshipping. And he does not say this is good or bad. He says it just is. But what we do with that is where the good or bad arises. We should not condemn someone for not holding a certain day sacred, or worshipping on the day we do. Nor should we condemn someone who does have a “special day for worshipping the Lord.” That line obviously hit home, as one thing that irks me about our current structure is the emphasis we place on Sunday. How we even call it both the Sabbath and the first day of the week, which are incompatible terms. (Sabbath was Saturday, while the first day was Sunday, and in our culture, I’d say the first day would be Monday.) But again, the details are not important. Paul says, “Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter.” Whoa! Really? Is that how we live corporate Christian life today? I don’t think so. I think because of the nature of a large institution, we require a bit of conformity, that Paul says here is unhealthy to individuals and to the body.

Romans 14:10-13
So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,
    “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow to me
       and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

I just want to point out again that Paul is emphasizing that we are not to call each other to a life according to your own conscience, but to their own conscience. He says we will each give a personal account to God. So, if I do something because you tell me to, even if that doesn’t really match what I am thinking or hearing from God or my understanding of Scripture—if it goes against my conscience—then I will have to answer to God for doing something that I did not think was right.

But at least my helpful Christian brothers and sisters will think I am right. I look like them.

We do not own other people, or have a say in what is right or wrong for them. Nor do they. They answer personally, and directly to their Master and their Father.

Romans 14:14-19
I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

I think that’s it. I think, as I mentioned at the top, that relationship is the key. Not an intellectual understanding of truth, but neither is it devoid of any absolute truth. It is the truth applied in love and lived out in relationship. As Paul says, aiming for harmony as we build each other up. I do like how he uses the words “aim” and “try”. He knows we are all flawed. Every one of us. So complete harmony is impossible. But it should be our aim to only speak words of love that build up and encourage harmony among us.

It is interesting to note that Paul actually makes a definitive statement regarding the morality of what we eat or drink. He says he knows for sure from Jesus that everything is OK. And yet, that absolute knowledge of truth can not supersede relationship. The relationship is paramount. Not the intellectual truth.

Also, he reminds us that the Kingdom is not a matter of what we eat or drink—or what days we hold as special, or even what we do on those days, I suppose—he says it is a matter of living a life of goodness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Again, the focus is not on a factual truth, but a life of love toward one another directed by Holy Spirit—not requirements or restrictions placed on us by others.

Romans 14:20-23
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

I noticed that Paul specifically included drink wine in here. There is a taboo associated with alcohol among some groups of Christians in America these days. I wonder if the same was true in Rome in the first century? Well, Paul’s truth then applies the same today. Jesus says there is nothing inherently wrong with any food or drink, but as he has led each individual, so must they choose. If it’s wrong for you, don’t do it. If it’s wrong for the brothers or sisters you are with, don’t do it. Food or drink—or your own freedom—is not worth the conscience of a fellow believer.

What an interesting chapter. It has given me pause again to consider my reactions to things spoken of, or done by the believers whose lives I come across. God is working in their lives, and who am I to say how they live out their relationship with him is either good or bad?

Please don’t interpret the words in this book that way. That is not my intent. I do not want followers. I don’t want to convince anyone that I am right about anything. This is a place where I get to work out stuff that Father is teaching and working in me, and I hope that by sharing it here, perhaps you may hear something from him as well. But it is certainly not intended to be taken at face value and applied to your life.

I am not your teacher. I am not your master. I am only a fellow servant, who longs to know and follow our Master, and our Friend. He is who I answer to, and so do you. Not anyone else who would presume to take his place. Listen to him, and follow him. Do as your conscience tells you to on matters where he has given us freedom.

Some might balk at that. In fact, I know they would. That, they say, will lead to anarchy. But it won’t. Listen to Paul’s claim one more time:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

We rob each other of so much joy in directly following the Head, our Shepherd, our Master. He can, he does, and he will rightly lead us to Truth. To Him.

I supposed that is my challenge. To me, and to you. Let’s allow each other to live out a life directed personally by Jesus. Let’s use our words to encourage and build up, not to condemn a fellow believer when that is so clearly not our place.

You do not belong to me, nor do I belong to you. Together, we follow Jesus. And none other.

This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

¿Saber, o Conocer? [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookSeveral years ago I published a book containing much of the writing on the topic of the Church that I had published here up to that point. Those posts are still available in the archives, and many are still read on a weekly basis.

Just the other day I was flipping through a copy of this book, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church, (I call it “The Church Book”) and came across a chapter that had some really good thoughts that I wanted to share again.

And so that is what I’m doing here today!

This is the official book version—the chapter from the book. As such, it’s been edited, partially re-written, and should be a tad more complete than the original posting on the blog in 2005.

If you’d like to get the whole book, please click the Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and you can purchase a copy through Amazon. Thanks!

(Want to read the back cover?)

And now, “¿Saber, o Conocer?”

¿Saber, o Conocer?

Following up on the last chapter, Information Exchange, I have noticed that it seems everywhere I look, the more noble goal, the thing to most strive for in life is knowledge. We paint scientists and teachers and other fact-based professions as the most honorable, and wisest professions. And then there is our obsession with experts. As a society, we would much sooner trust a person who spent decades of their life in a classroom, than we would a person who has been a close friend for years.

Knowledge reigns supreme.

And we see this even in the church. The place where the wisdom of the world should have no hold, but in fact it does. Our entire concept of church is much more like a university than a family. In my opinion, this should not be. The church is not an educational institution. Jesus did not set up 90-minute classes offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings in the Temple courts. He didn’t establish the School of Jesus, or Nazareth Christian Academy. He just loved people, and revealed truth about life through stories, and through life lived with a few close friends. You’d think if knowledge were indeed supreme, Jesus might have been more intentional about it.

Now, even a quick study of the book of Proverbs, and the Psalms, and even Ecclesiastes and Job (we call them the books of Wisdom) shows how much emphasis the people of God and God himself placed on knowledge. When you read those books, and the verses that specifically mention knowledge, it’s quite evident that knowledge is supreme over all else. It is better than the choicest gold, it will deliver the righteous, and knowledge and understanding come straight from the mouth of God. So, it’s quite obvious that God places a premium on knowledge.

But as I continued to read, one scripture after another about knowledge, something struck me. I have grown up in this culture, and so I first think of knowledge as the stuff of trivia — life deconstructed into lifeless fact and ingested and regurgitated by rows of mindless sponges soaking up so called “knowledge”. We have cheapened knowledge into what in Spanish is called Saber. (Yes, I know, that’s the verb…)

You see, in Spanish, there are two words for the verb, “To know.” (From whence cometh the noun, “Knowledge”.) The word saber means to know stuff. It means I know that my name is Greg. I know that I have three kids. I know that I live in Palmyra, NY. Yo sé. I have learned and can repeat to you those factoids.

The other word would also be translated “to know” but has an entirely different meaning, and a different use. Conocer means to know, and it is more intimate. It is how I know Jen, or my kids, or anything with which I am very familiar, especially people. Yo conozco a mi hijo, Ian. I know my son Ian.

In English, the word looks the same. I know the Bills won this weekend. I know my son, Ian. But in spanish, if I said, “Yo conozco a mi hijo, Ian” and then said, “Yo sé mi hijo Ian” — using two words that could both be translated “to know”, I would end up saying very different things. The former would convey an familiarity with Ian, that I know him personally and intimately, that we have shared life together. The latter would be more correctly translated, “I know of my son, Ian.” It is detached, informational, intellectual knowledge. Personless. Lifeless.

And that’s exactly what we have sometimes. We have switched the words and forgotten to check the meaning. When we see that we need to strive for knowledge — when we understand that knowledge is the commodity we must seek — we are thinking the kind of knowledge that is taught in classrooms. So, we set up lectures and series of lessons, and we create study guides and study Bibles and study groups, and all sorts of tools to fill our minds with the “knowledge of God.” But Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
1 Corinthians 8:1

And later, in 1 Timothy, he states:

“[avoid] worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’”
1 Timothy 6:20

Paul knew that there were different kinds of knowledge. One that builds up and should be sought after, and one that isn’t even knowledge at all, and only serves to build up the ego of the person who possesses it.

Consider what Jesus said to a group of people who loved to learn about God and took pride in their knowledge of Him.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
John 5:39-40

Jesus points out to these guys that even though they pour through the Scriptures, and read all about the One who is life, they refuse to actually come to Him for real life. They are satisfied with “saber” God rather than “conocer” God. I happen to give them more credit than we usually do in Christian circles. It’s too easy to think of the Pharisees as ugly, grumpy old men who always walked around with a sneer on their faces, pointing and laughing at people for their spiritual inadequacies. I think they were mostly trying, but just did not understand the truth Jesus was getting at.

Jesus said, in the verse I probably quote the most of any that I know — John 17:3 — that “eternal life is to know you, the One true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. That’s it. Not know about him, or to know all the stuff he said or did, or even to know what he wants us to do. Eternal life IS to KNOW GOD. Conocer. Not saber.

Hosea said it like this:

“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6

God doesn’t want us to know about him. He wants us to know him, and to be like him. We can never achieve that on our own, but as we hang out with him, and get to know him, it will be a natural outcome of our relationship with him. As we know him more (again, not more about him ) we will be transformed in his likeness.

At nearly every Christian wedding we hear the famous cadence of love from the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthinians. Love is this, love is that, love is not this, love is not that. But at the beginning of the famous part, Paul says very simply that if we have knowledge, but don’t have love, it’s worthless. (1 Corinthians 13:2) We say the words, but don’t heed their meaning.

I am not saying that all of our learning and information dissemination infrastructure is devoid of love. Obviously, the heart of most every Christian leader is to impart (out of love) the knowledge that they have gained of God’s insane love for us. The motive is not in question, just the method of delivery.

Perhaps in all our desire to have “knowledge” we forgot that there are two ways to “know”.

We can know about God, or we can actually know God. We can spit back facts crammed into our head in late night fact ingestion sessions, or we can breathe the familiarity that comes from daily life with our Maker. The choice seems simple to me. You get to choose how you define knowledge. You can pick what you will strive for.

So what will it be? ¿Saber, o Conocer?

This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.